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To Tom & Staff: Forum participation dropoff ?

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To Tom & Staff: Forum participation dropoff ?
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, October 28, 2002 8:07 AM
I have, in several posts the last few months, suggested that the trains.com forums were "well attended", and had much valuable information, in spite of the slow and somewhat inconvenient format. This is still true, however, as weather gets colder, and model railroading activities resume for the winter, I have the impression of some dropoff in participation at trains.com. There seems to be far less daily input.Other forums, often with less useful basic MRR help, are getting busier than ever [ie: Trainboard, Atlas], but input here is dwindling. Maybe it IS time for trains.com to revamp their forums, at least somewhat, if they wi***o retain participants, and get some new ones.

On the PLUS side, the trains.com forum is free from the personality problems and cliques that increasingly infect other forums.It would be a shame if a revamped trains.com forum simply became yet another vehicle for the same overexposed bunch, with their increasingly juvenile registry names, and their slogans-upon- slogans, befitting only those truly desperate for identity and attention.The LAST THINGS the online hobby needs is yet another "here's yet another photo of my latest whatever, isn't it great" contributor, or messages with rows and rows of smiley-face icons and annoying waving avatars, or "let's-all-post-photos-of ourselves" threads, or yet another "pretend coffee & donuts" group, or yet more "blind leading the blind" contributors, ("Experts" with 2 years experience providing bad information to other rookies).
All of these are already well served elsewhere, since a serious model railroader needs no computer at all, and these folks go out of their way to prove it. ("Well served" being an understatement of massive proportions. )I doubt trains.com wants to have to supervise and monitor their forums to the degree now forced on other forums.
I might get some opposition to this post from certain "other-forum" contributors, but that is of zero interest to me.They generally hide behind a cloak of anonymity when they post here, but are recognizable by content.I've probably encountered most of those lads before, and believe they best serve this forum by staying off it.This post is because I am very interested in what trains.com thinks about the topic in general, and potential changes to these forums in particular.Also from those who ask serious questions here, get serious answers, and don't want this to become yet another Mickey Mouse Club of online traingeeks, but DO want a faster and easier forum. I worry that if this forum becomes all the things people have wished it to be, that it will just become all the things I don't like about the others.
regards / Mike











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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, October 29, 2002 4:29 PM
Mike:

I think we all want to see more user friendly interface with the same content. This site is the first stop for many who are new to the hobby and for those like you and me--we continue to visit it regularly.


Jim
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 30, 2002 7:45 AM
I agree with most of what you have said MIke, some of those forums seem to have a race going for who can post the most in record time. However, trainwreck has been my nick since the first day I got my puter.
Don
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Posted by dknelson on Wednesday, October 30, 2002 8:13 AM
there are several annoying aspects to this site
Webcam: now that there is only one, must we really pu***hree buttons (and one some computers wait and wait and wait) to get there?
Forums: if we are in Trains and want to go to Model Railroading, why do we have to go all the way back to Forums to switch?
Forums: the more popular the topic the harder it is jump into it because of the refusal to summarize the content of a post as most forums do.

I have no problems with the actual content
Dave Nelson
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 30, 2002 12:45 PM
MR and Trains are the Mecca for our hobby and so this site should be busier, and more user friendly. As for a lot of posts, remember different people participate differently. Count isn't quality either way - a low count or a high count responding to threads.

As a forum becomes more popular - and your wish comes true - then you will get "personalities." What is required is good moderating, with the ability to boot participants and lock threads. Trainboard.com doesn't get the traffic that Atlas does for a couple of reasons - but one of them is that it is more heavily moderated (I am a moderator there).

A personality poisoned the atmosphere about a year and a half ago and made it miserable for everyone. He would send horrible emails to moderators, go to other forums and slag moderators and participants at Trainboard; it wasn't fun. So now you find a heavier hand there. We would prefer fewer participants, but on a more pleasant level. If you want to see the heavy hand of the law, go to www.trainboard.com , then enter the HO forum, then go to "Hey guys" thread. You will see "Watash" giving it to some one, as the moderators were afraid that the issues concerning the death of RR-Line would spill over into trainboard as it did on the Atlas forum.

The problem with RR-Line was that the moderators didn't have the control they have at trainboard, so small issues got out of hand.

However, too much censoreship is a bad thing. The worst place for that is the layout design sig at Yahoo! Groups. The moderators ran a poll asking the participants to vote on continued censoreship. I wrote a polite but highly critical critique of their approach and that the members weren't aware of the level of censoreship there (I have had 5 posts censored there - all polite and on topic). Of course the thread critique the moderator's level of censoreship never made it the forum, so all criticism was censored out....lol. You don't want that either. Layout design has become a bit bland... sometimes you want stuff off topic, its kind of like flowers in the garden - you don't really need them, but they spruce the place up. You can only answer so many questions on grades and minimum radius without talking about other things to keep your interest up.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 30, 2002 4:49 PM
As a reader of MR magazine, this is the first train related web site I sought after I got a computer in March of this year. I've enjoyed the forum and have read lots of useful information. Since the site's recent format change, however, it takes ten to twenty seconds for each Trains.com post to build up on my computer, compared to the almost instantaneous response I get on other model railroad forums. Its simply too inconvenient to navigate here. I check in once in a while to see if things have changed and hope some day to find a fast, easy to use site.
As for the content of other forums, I guess that's a matter of personal preference. Photos of other people's work often inspire me and I enjoy the commaraderie of the hobby. I read what I'm interested in and leave the rest for others. I don't have a need to spoil any one else's enjoyment nor do I appreciate any one doing that to me.
Best of luck with the forums.
Ralph
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 30, 2002 6:59 PM
Hi All,

Ditto for me... I like the forums but the navigation is very confusing, there are no forward buttons leading the reader thru the end of the thread.
(Take a look at CNET.com, Techrepublic.com or Builder.com to see it done right.) The navigation at the left of the page doesn't even give you the option of skipping back to the forum listing, (unless I am missing the forum link - if so that should tell you something too.)

Also, the forums need to be broken down into meaningful sub groups, Track vs cars vs scenery etc...

Best wishes,
Jim
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 31, 2002 7:10 AM
And by the way, what ever happened to the link to the manufacturers, since you re-did the site, is it here and I cant find it??
Don
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 31, 2002 7:28 AM
"The navigation at the left of the page doesn't even give you the option of skipping back to the forum listing, (unless I am missing the forum link - if so that should tell you something too.)"
Jim - Try the 'DISCUSSION LIST' button just above the message you're reading.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 31, 2002 9:10 AM
Hi everyone. I know in time that this forum format will change for the better, but, we should have patiance.
I got my first computer about 10 months ago, and the first place I came was (guess where)?? I never ventured much past the Trains.com forums, until other people started talking about the other forums. So I took a look, WOW!! BIG difference in speed, and userfriendlyness.
I have since joined most and then left some, but I still come home to check things out once an a while.
What forum format do I prefer?? I would say the Atlas forum, because you can scroll down on one continuess thread, and to me it is the easist to navigate around in.
Have patiance people, Trains.com I know will come thu!!!
Tim
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 31, 2002 10:32 AM
Hi Don,

That link would be just to your left -- the "Links" link!

Paul Schmidt
Contributing Editor
Trains.com
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 31, 2002 12:05 PM
I, like Ralph, enjoy and get insperation in viewing links to others modeler's layouts. The ones I particularly like are the under construction photos of someone's layout.
As for people disrupting the forum...well, I guess those kind people are going to be on just about any site. I'm grateful that there are fewer of them than people who are trully willing to help and share their knowledge.
John
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, October 31, 2002 1:30 PM
Some thoughts on "categories" that a forum can have. One of the reason for Atlas's success (forum) is that there are only 4 choices, excluding admin. At trainboard, I'm to lazy to count, but lots of em, too many in my opinion.

Why do I say "too many?" Well, lets say you have one hundred a day come to Atlas, there responses will be mostly to the N and HO forum, with a few going to O and DCC. At trainboard, that same hundred will be divided off into something like 40 different forums, so it feels slow and unattended, even though the count is identical in visitors to Atlas.

We forum participants are a mouthy bunch, we like to post goodies, and hear what others have to say. For any long time forum particpant, you know the disappointment of putting a lot of thought into a thread and having only one person respond.

The other thing I think that Atlas is brilliant at, is the including those that have read the thread, as well as those that respond. That way, if you have worked hard on a thread, and you only get one response, but you know 120 read it, that feels better.

At RR-Line, I think they had too many categories (forums) for the level of participation they had. They basically copied trainboard, but the base of active people at trainboard is much larger than the base RR-Line had.

Too many forums, could kill the MR site. Better to start off with a few, and over the years, add on.
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, November 1, 2002 7:29 AM
Thanks Paul, and I can hear you snickering under your breath from here lol
Don
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Posted by Anonymous on Friday, November 1, 2002 10:13 AM
Hi Don,

I myself had a moment of "Oh no" until I remembered where it was! Redesigns of Web sites are a bit like rearranging one's shop -- I've had to refamiliarize myself and learn new habits.

Paul

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